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Best of Vin Narayanan

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Entrances and pros dominate Day 1C of the WSOP Main Event

6 July 2009

LAS VEGAS -- It was a day for entrants and entrances at the World Series of Poker Main Event Sunday. Nearly 1,700 players hit the felt for Day 1C after Days 1A and 1B combined produced 1,989 entrants combined. An even larger field is expected to play Monday, though it is unlikely that the 2009 Main Event will match last year's field of 6,844 players.

The Day 1C field of 1696 players had plenty of newcomers in it, as several rookies entered a virtually empty Amazon Room around 10:30 a.m. to look for their tables, not realizing thy weren't supposed to be in the tournament area. Several fans had arrived early as well, hoping to be first in line to watch the featured table. But security eventually arrived and asked fans and players alike to leave, so tournament officials could begin to prepare for the start of Day 1C.

Phil Hellmuth

Phil Hellmuth arrived at WSOP Main Event doing his best Julius Caesar impersonation.(Photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

Tournament officials opened the doors for the players to enter at 11:45 a.m., and that's when the Dennis Phillips brigade made its presence felt. Last year's third-place finisher in the Main Event showed up in his signature white, long sleeve Broadway Trucking Center shirt and St. Louis Cardinals hat. And around 50 of his friends filed en masse into the Amazon Room dressed just like him. They lined up along three-deep along the rail to watch their friend play.

One of Phillips' friends on the rail, David Tucker, was watching him play for second time in nine months. "I was on stage with him all the way," said Tucker. "I've known him for 37 years," Tucker added. "We used to play poker back then too. He was just better than everyone else."

Tucker also says Phillips is the same man he was after he won $4,517,773 in the Main Event last year.

"The only differences are he drinks better beer and wine," Tucker said. "Other than that, he's the same. He still drives a truck with 120,000 miles on it."

As for watching Phillips play, Tucker says he enjoys it. "I like the excitement," Tucker said. "I live vicariously through Dennis. And the great thing about him is he gives us that so willingly."


Dennis Phillips

Dennis Phillips started this year's Main Event with a clean hat and ended the day with 62,325 in chips.(Photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

Just as play was beginning, Casino City caught up with Phillips at table 109 Red. "You have to have some fun with this," said Phillips about his entourage. And when asked if he would collection signatures from poker players on his Cardinals hat like he did last year, Phillips indicated he would.

"That's a good point," said Phillips, whose hat had no signatures at the time. "I should be up getting autographs so I can sell the hat for charity. Thanks for reminding me."

Phillips decision to auction off this year's hat should come as no surprise to anyone. He's very active in raising money for charities, and his shirt features patches of at least two charities -- the Albert Pujols Family Foundation and Bad Beat on Cancer. And when we wandered past Phillips later in the day, he had several new signatures on his hat -- all for the sake of charity.

While Phillips was in his seat and ready to play when Rep. Barney Frank ordered the dealers to "Shuffle up and deal," Phil Hellmuth, scheduled to play at the secondary ESPN table, was nowhere to be found.

Doyle Brunson

Nearly 50 "friends of Dennis" dressed like their hero and watched him play during Day 1C of the Main of Event.(Photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

As per Hellmuth tradition, the self-proclaimed "Poker Brat" was waiting to make his grand entrance. And what an entrance it was.

Around 1:30 p.m., 34 women wearing white Roman tunics adorned with UltimateBet.net patches assembled just outside the Amazon Room in the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino. There was no Hellmuth in site, but the buzz was building that Hellmuth was getting ready to make his grand entrance and the crowd surrounding the UB women grew.

Fans pumped the UltimateBet representative standing with the women for information, but got nowhere.

"He's coming in from where he always does," the UB rep said with a smile when asked where Hellmuth would be making his entrance from.

As the crowd grew, fans jockeyed for position, trying to secure and hold onto the best location to snap a picture of Hellmuth walking down the hall.

But just as everyone had settled into a holding pattern, the UB women went into motion. Marching in two single file lines, they headed up the hallway, toward the convention hall entrance of the Rio -- and the fans scrambled to follow.

The models formed two long columns on either side of the hall giving Hellmuth an aisle to walk down. Then musicians wearing Roman garb started beating a drum and playing a bugle to herald Hellmuth's arrival.

UB girls

Women dressed in UltimateBet tunics wait to escort Hellmuth to the Amazon Room.(Photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

Then Hellmuth, dressed as Julius Caesar, made his entrance. He strode down the hallway wearing a tunic and skirt, with a decorative wreath ringing his head.

Poker fans mobbed Hellmuth as he made his entrances, pushing their way through other fans to stay close to him. And flashbulbs popped, even in the Amazon Room where no flash photography is allowed.

As Hellmuth made his way to the secondary ESPN table, he stopped to shake WSOP Commissioner Jeffrey Pollack's hand. After a brief conversation, Hellmuth continued on to his table. And Pollack, who had planted himself in that position about 10 prior to Hellmuth's arrival, wore a bemused smile that bordered on disbelief as he watched Hellmuth finish his journey.

At his table, Hellmuth signed some autographs for fans, as they clustered around the rail, hoping to get a picture of him. Watching from a raised platform above the fray, WSOP media director Nolan Dalla summed up the excitement and answered Hellmuth's critics. "How can anyone say this is not good for poker?" Dalla said.

Jeffrey Lisandro

Lisandro continued his dominate play in this year's Series on Day 1C of the Main Event. He finished the night with 146,950 in chips.(Photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

Hellmuth and Phillips helped set the scene for Sunday's action. But Jeffrey Lisandro stole the show. Lisandro, who has already won three bracelets this year, chipped up early and often and finished the day with 146,950 in chips. Hevad Khan (97,800) and former Main Event champion Joe Hachem (84,550) also fared well on Day 1C. And "Miami" John Cernuto returned to the felt after being being hospitalized in the middle of a Razz tournament earlier in the Series. He finished with 46,075 in chips.

Fan favorites Daniel Negreanu, David "Chino" Rheem, Annie Duke, Lacey Jones, Brandon Cantu, Liv Boeree and Evelyn Ng failed to advance to Day 2B.

Negreanu and Duke were both playing the Main Event serious colds. "Out of the WSOP and don't really care. So sick I just need a bed," tweeted Negreanu. Later on, Negreanu posted this follow-up tweet. "Nose dripping like a water faucet, head pounding. So bizarre. Must have caught something. I played uber bad at the WSOP. Had no chance."

Duke broke the news of her cold yesterday. "Bad cold. Sore throat. Main Event. Dammit," Duke tweeted.

Lacey Jones

Fan favorite Lacey Jones busted out of the tournament Sunday.(Photo by Vin Narayanan, Casino City)

While Negreanu and Duke were out trying to recover from their colds and early exits from the Main Event, Hellmuth was entertaining the crowd at the secondary ESPN table and picking up chips. In one hand, after a 3x-3x-8x flop, Phil folded to a raise. Then he offered $100 to see his opponent's hand. The opponent's girlfriend in the audience got in the act as well, picking up a $100 from Hellmuth before the opponent flipped over pocket fours for two-pair.

Hellmuth finished the night with 27,475 in chips.

Entrances and pros dominate Day 1C of the WSOP Main Event is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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Best of Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan

Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.

Vin Narayanan
Vin Narayanan is the managing editor at Casino City. When he's not writing or editing stories, he likes to play Chinese Poker, Badugi, Razz and any other "non-traditional" poker game. He also thinks blackjack is his best game and loves game theory.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.

A proud graduate of Michigan State University, Vin can be found on most nights and weekends trying to find a way to watch the Spartans play football or basketball.